published Wednesday, July 17th, 2013

New animal control plan advances in Chattanooga City Council

Chattanooga City Hall
Chattanooga City Hall
Photo by Jake Daniels /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Chattanooga Council members revived an animal control ordinance fowl-free in Tuesday's council meeting, but it met with opposition when it came time to vote.

Last week, the city voted down an animal ordinance by a 6-3 vote that would have allowed chickens within the city limits.

This week the ordinance minus chickens was back on the agenda with the same extensive overhaul to animal control that will affect pet breeders, dealers and rescue shelters. The ordinance passed a first reading by a 5-3 vote.

While council members say the ordinance is needed, several members including Councilman Chris Anderson, who championed the push for chickens, had qualms with higher fees for restaurant owners who allow pets on leashes on their decks and patios.

The city's Animal Control Board suggested increasing the fee for an annual permit from the current $50 to $100 for restaurant owners. Anderson also raised concerns about why McKamey Animal Center had recommended the fee increase since they would be the ones receiving the money.

"I don't think we should take the unprecedented action of a vendor that we contract with setting our fees that we charge taxpayers," he said.

McKamey Animal Center Executive Director Karen Walsh said she has been an advisor for the Animal Control Board since they began meeting in January and the council's concern isn't founded. If the council is concerned about the permit fee, they can lower it, she said.

Other council members had concerns about other fees in the ordinance.

Councilman Moses Freeman questioned whether extra fees for animal rescue shelters could force them to have to give the dogs up increasing the chances of animals getting killed.

One of the suggested fees requires rescue shelters to pay $10 per dog after a year if workers go past a certain quota of animals, Councilwoman Carol Berz said during the council meeting.

While Berz voted yes, she said she would like answers about the increased monetary burden on animal shelters and how that could affect the city's kill rate.

Walsh told the council the purpose of the extensive permits decided by the animal control board is to regulate the large market of unregulated rescue shelters that expose animals to sickness. The purpose is also to help support the shelters.

"We can create a system to be more of a rescue coalition in the community," she told the council.

The ordinance will be discussed again in next week's agenda meeting.

Police lawsuit

Council members also voted to resolve a lingering discrimination lawsuit left over from the past administration.

The resolution avoided a trial where Chattanooga police Lt. Bobby Rodgers and nine other white officers claimed the department in 2005 refused to promote any white officers.

The 8-0 decision to settle the 7-year-old discrimination lawsuit gave the officers $725,000 to split -- one of the highest settlements the city has offered in a discrimination suit, Councilman Yusuf Hakeem said.

City spokeswoman Lacie Stone said the amount was decided through a mediation process, which culminated last Wednesday.

The officers' attorney Steven Dobson wasn't available after the city meeting. Yet several council members said the amount was fair for the officers.

Contact staff writer Joy Lukachick at jlukachick@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6659.

about Joy Lukachick...

Joy Lukachick is the city government reporter for the Chattanooga Times Free Press Since 2009, she's covered breaking news, high-profile trials, stories of lost lives and of regained hope and done investigative work. Raised near the Bayou, Joy’s hometown is along the outskirts of Baton Rouge, La. She has a bachelor’s degree in mass communication from Louisiana State University. While at LSU, Joy was a staff writer for the Daily Reveille. When Joy isn't chasing ...

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